Whistleblower Case Against Former Practice Results in $4.6M Jury Verdict for Radiologist

April 8, 2024
Whistleblower Case Against Former Practice Results $4.6M Jury Verdict for Radiologist

A jury in Hennepin County, Minnesota awarded a radiologist $4.6 million in damages after finding they were wrongfully terminated by their former employer in violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act.[1] This landmark case is considered one of the largest whistleblower verdicts in Minnesota history and sends a powerful message to employers engaging in misconduct. This case was only made possible through the cooperation of a whistleblower, who had the power to expose their employer who ignored safety and ethical guidelines; thus, bringing forth legal consequences against them. A whistleblower attorney provides the necessary guidance and support throughout the complex filing process. Instead of navigating a whistleblower case alone, it is highly advised that a whistleblower consult with an experienced whistleblower attorney.

The Whistleblower

The former employee of Consulting Radiologists Ltd (CRL) had worked there for nearly 20 years and was a board-certified radiologist and senior shareholder of the company. In addition, they held several leadership roles within the hospital, including the Chair of the Department of Radiology, membership of the Patient Safety and Quality Committee, later acting as the leader of the latter committee in 2020 and 2021. In January 2020, they became the chief-of-staff-elect at Abbott Northwester. The company was ordered to pay the former employee $4.6 million for retaliation – underscoring how stridently whistleblower statutes protect insiders.

The Alleged Conduct

The responsibility of the chief-of-staff appointment included strong ethical and professional obligations such as vocalizing potential ethical, legal, or medical misconduct. In the summer of 2021, prior to the commencement of their chief-of-staff role, the whistleblower allegedly witnessed or came to know about potential violations and raised these concerns to leadership. According to court documents, the whistleblower alleged the following violations: [2]

• Physicians were wrongfully downgrading cases such that they were classified as “serious” misses
• “Peer review transgressions”- peer review standards and protocols were not being followed
• Patient safety concerns and unethical practices
• Claims of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination on behalf of one of his female co-workers
• Several instances of a doctor performing unwarranted biopsies

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The Retaliatory Termination

The whistleblower was repeatedly ignored by leadership when they shared these issues with the CRL Board. They warned CRL leadership that if nothing was done to stop the problematic practices, they would have to notify the hospital’s parent company, Allina Health, of these patient safety concerns and violations. Subsequently, the whistleblower was fired “without cause” in September 2021 by the CRL Board of Directors, just days after they decided to report their concerns to Allina Health.

The Lawsuit and Verdict

Less than a year later, on June 14, 2022, the whistleblower and their attorneys filed a civil lawsuit. The wrongful termination complaint contained numerous grievances against CRL and Allina Health System. While the whistleblower’s claims against Allina Health were dismissed on August 28, 2023, CRL remained as the only defendant in the case. By the end of January 2024, jurors found that the whistleblower was, in fact, wrongfully terminated by CRL who violated Minnesota’s whistleblower protection law. The jury awarded $4,587,602 in damages for past and future wage loss and emotional distress. [3]This verdict shows how seriously courts take whistleblower protection rights. It also makes clear that employers cannot retaliate when an employee stands up for what is right by properly vocalizing safety concerns or other ethical, medical, and/or legal violations.

Blowing the Whistle to Promote Patient Safety and Stop Misconduct

Patient safety is paramount in healthcare, and blowing the whistle is equally important when it is jeopardized. To ensure both patients and employees are safe, the legal system will go to great lengths to protect the rights of whistleblowers who voluntarily come forward in good faith with actionable information to safeguard medical, ethical, and/or legal guideline adherence. Because blowing the whistle can be a complex process, a whistleblower law firm is best suited to aid a whistleblower in making disclosures that put a stop to unethical practices and uphold patient safety. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a whistleblower attorney.